The Tenth Story

Dom Gianni, At The Instance Of His Gossip Pietro, Performeth A Conjuration For The Purpose Of Causing The Latter's Wife To Become A Mare; But, Whenas He Cometh To Put On The Tail, Pietro Marreth The Whole Conjuration, Saying That He Will Not Have A Tail

The queen's story made the young men laugh and gave rise to some murmurs on the part of the ladies; then, as soon as the latter were quiet, Dioneo began to speak thus, "Sprightly ladies, a black crow amongst a multitude of white doves addeth more beauty than would a snow-white swan, and in like manner among many sages one less wise is not only an augmentation of splendour and goodliness to their maturity, but eke a source of diversion and solace. Wherefore, you ladies being all exceeding discreet and modest, I, who savour somewhat of the scatterbrain, should be dearer to you, causing, as I do, your worth to shine the brightlier for my default, than if with my greater merit I made this of yours wax dimmer; and consequently, I should have larger license to show you myself such as I am and should more patiently be suffered of you, in saying that which I shall say, than if I were wiser. I will, therefore, tell you a story not overlong, whereby you may apprehend how diligently it behoveth to observe the conditions imposed by those who do aught by means of enchantment and how slight a default thereof sufficeth to mar everything done by the magician.

A year or two agone there was at Barletta a priest called Dom Gianni di Barolo, who, for that he had but a poor cure, took to eking out his livelihood by hawking merchandise hither and thither about the fairs of Apulia with a mare of his and buying and selling. In the course of his travels he contracted a strait friendship with one who styled himself Pietro da Tresanti and plied the same trade with the aid of an ass he had. In token of friendship and affection, he called him still Gossip Pietro, after the Apulian fashion, and whenassoever he visited Barletta, he carried him to his parsonage and there lodged him with himself and entertained him to the best of his power. Gossip Pietro, on his part, albeit he was very poor and had but a sorry little house at Tresanti, scarce sufficing for himself and a young and buxom wife he had and his ass, as often as Dom Gianni came to Tresanti, carried him home with him and entertained him as best he might, in requital of the hospitality received from him at Barletta. Nevertheless, in the matter of lodging, having but one sorry little bed, in which he slept with his handsome wife, he could not entertain him as he would, but, Dom Gianni's mare being lodged with Pietro's ass in a little stable he had, needs must the priest himself lie by her side on a truss of straw.

The goodwife, knowing the hospitality which the latter did her husband at Barletta, would more than once, whenas the priest came thither, have gone to lie with a neighbor of hers, by name Zita Caraprese, [daughter] of Giudice Leo, so he might sleep in the bed with her husband, and had many a time proposed it to Dom Gianni, but he would never hear of it; and once, amongst other times, he said to her, 'Gossip Gemmata, fret not thyself for me; I fare very well, for that, whenas it pleaseth me, I cause this mare of mine become a handsome wench and couch with her, and after, when I will, I change her into a mare again; wherefore I care not to part from her.'

The young woman marvelled, but believed his tale and told her husband, saying, 'If he is so much thy friend as thou sayest, why dost thou not make him teach thee his charm, so thou mayst avail to make of me a mare and do thine affairs with the ass and the mare? So should we gain two for one; and when we were back at home, thou couldst make me a woman again, as I am.' Pietro, who was somewhat dull of wit, believed what she said and falling in with her counsel, began, as best he knew, to importune Dom Gianni to teach him the trick. The latter did his best to cure him of that folly, but availing not thereto, he said, 'Harkye, since you will e'en have it so, we will arise to-morrow morning before day, as of our won't, and I will show you how it is done. To tell thee the truth, the uneathest part of the matter is the putting on of the tail, as thou shalt see.'

Accordingly, whenas it drew near unto day, Goodman Pietro and Gossip Gemmata, who had scarce slept that night, with such impatience did they await the accomplishment of the matter, arose and called Dom Gianni, who, arising in his shirt, betook himself to Pietro's little chamber and said to him, 'I know none in the world, except you, for whom I would do this; wherefore since it pleaseth you, I will e'en do it; but needs must you do as I shall bid you, an you would have the thing succeed.' They answered that they would do that which he should say; whereupon, taking the light, he put it into Pietro's hand and said to him, 'Mark how I shall do and keep well in mind that which I shall say. Above all, have a care, an thou wouldst not mar everything, that, whatsoever thou hearest or seest, thou say not a single word, and pray God that the tail may stick fast.' Pietro took the light, promising to do exactly as he said, whereupon Dom Gianni let strip Gemmata naked as she was born and caused her stand on all fours, mare-fashion, enjoining herself likewise not to utter a word for aught that should betide. Then, passing his hand over her face and her head, he proceeded to say, 'Be this a fine mare's head,' and touching her hair, said, 'Be this a fine mare's mane'; after which he touched her arms, saying, 'Be these fine mare's legs and feet,' and coming presently to her breast and finding it round and firm, such an one awoke that was not called and started up on end,[440] whereupon quoth he, 'Be this a fine mare's chest.' And on like wise he did with her back and belly and crupper and thighs and legs. Ultimately, nothing remaining to do but the tail, he pulled up his shirt and taking the dibble with which he planted men, he thrust it hastily into the furrow made therefor and said, 'And be this a fine mare's tail.'

Pietro, who had thitherto watched everything intently, seeing this last proceeding and himseeming it was ill done, said, 'Ho there, Dom Gianni, I won't have a tail there, I won't have a tail there!' The radical moisture, wherewith all plants are made fast, was by this come, and Dom Gianni drew it forth, saying, 'Alack, gossip Pietro, what hast thou done? Did I not bid thee say not a word for aught that thou shouldst see? The mare was all made; but thou hast marred everything by talking, nor is there any means of doing it over again henceforth.' Quoth Pietro, 'Marry, I did not want that tail there. Why did you not say to me, "Make it thou"? More by token that you were for setting it too low.' 'Because,' answered Dom Gianni, 'thou hadst not known for the first time to set it on so well as I.' The young woman, hearing all this, stood up and said to her husband, in all good faith, 'Dolt that thou art, why hast thou marred thine affairs and mine? What mare sawest thou ever without a tail? So God aid me, thou art poor, but it would serve thee right, wert thou much poorer.' Then, there being now, by reason of the words that Pietro had spoken, no longer any means of making a mare of the young woman, she donned her clothes, woebegone and disconsolate, and Pietro, continuing to ply his old trade with an ass, as he was used, betook himself, in company with Dom Gianni, to the Bitonto fair, nor ever again required him of such a service."

How much the company laughed at this story, which was better understood of the ladies than Dioneo willed, let her who shall yet laugh thereat imagine for herself. But, the day's stories being now ended and the sun beginning to abate of its heat, the queen, knowing the end of her seignory to be come, rose to her feet and putting off the crown, set it on the head of Pamfilo, whom alone it remained to honour after such a fashion, and said, smiling, "My lord, there devolveth on thee a great burden, inasmuch as with thee it resteth, thou being the last, to make amends for my default and that of those who have foregone me in the dignity which thou presently holdest; whereof God lend thee grace, even as He hath vouchsafed it unto me to make thee king." Pamfilo blithely received the honour done him and answered, "Your merit and that of my other subjects will do on such wise that I shall be adjudged deserving of commendation, even as the others have been." Then, having, according to the usance of his predecessors, taken order with the seneschal of the things that were needful, he turned to the expectant ladies and said to them, "Lovesome ladies, it was the pleasure of Emilia, who hath this day been our queen, to give you, for the purpose of affording some rest to your powers, license to discourse of that which should most please you; wherefore, you being now rested, I hold it well to return to the wonted ordinance, and accordingly I will that each of you bethink herself to discourse to-morrow of this, to wit, OF WHOSO HATH ANYWISE WROUGHT GENEROUSLY OR MAGNIFICENTLY IN MATTERS OF LOVE OR OTHERWHAT. The telling and doing of these things will doubtless fire your well-disposed minds to do worthily; so will our life, which may not be other than brief in this mortal body, be made perpetual in laudatory renown; a thing which all, who serve not the belly only, as do the beasts, should not only desire, but with all diligence seek and endeavour after."

The theme pleased the joyous company, who having all, with the new king's license, arisen from session, gave themselves to their wonted diversions, according to that unto which each was most drawn by desire; and on this wise they did until the hour of supper, whereunto they came joyously and were served with diligence and fair ordinance. Supper at an end, they arose to the wonted dances, and after they had sung a thousand canzonets, more diverting of words than masterly of music, the king bade Neifile sing one in her own name; whereupon, with clear and blithesome voice, she cheerfully and without delay began thus:

A youngling maid am I and full of glee,
Am fain to carol in the new-blown May,
Love and sweet thoughts-a-mercy, blithe and free.

I go about the meads, considering
The vermeil flowers and golden and the white,
Roses thorn-set and lilies snowy-bright,
And one and all I fare a-likening
Unto his face who hath with love-liking
Ta'en and will hold me ever, having aye
None other wish than as his pleasures be;

Whereof when one I find me that doth show,
Unto my seeming, likest him, full fain
I cull and kiss and talk with it amain
And all my heart to it, as best I know,
Discover, with its store of wish and woe,
Then it with others in a wreath I lay,
Bound with my hair so golden-bright of blee.

Ay, and that pleasure which the eye doth prove,
By nature, of the flower's view, like delight
Doth give me as I saw the very wight
Who hath inflamed me of his dulcet love,
And what its scent thereover and above
Worketh in me, no words indeed can say;
But sighs thereof bear witness true for me,

The which from out my bosom day nor night
Ne'er, as with other ladies, fierce and wild,
Storm up; nay, thence they issue warm and mild
And straight betake them to my loved one's sight,
Who, hearing, moveth of himself, delight
To give me; ay, and when I'm like to say
"Ah come, lest I despair," still cometh he.

Neifile's canzonet was much commended both of the king and of the other ladies; after which, for that a great part of the night was now spent, the king commanded that all should betake themselves to rest until the day.

Footnotes

[440] i.e. arrectus est penis ejus.

HERE ENDETH THE NINTH DAY
OF THE DECAMERON
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